"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food" -Hippocrates

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Food Labels and Ingredients

I've been thinking about how I should approach this post for a little while, and today I stumbled upon the perfect website to help me. It's called Fooducate.com and I am seriously sad that I did not know of this site sooner. [I am currently nerding out over it, and feeling so pumped to have this as a resource.]
Fooducate is a site that allows you to type in any food product you use (ex: Chobani Greek Yogurt) and it Grades it (A-D), thus, providing you with nutrient information, processing, ingredients, etc. It gives you the true, simple facts you deserve to know about the food you are consuming. I STRONGLY suggest you type in a few of your staple food items and see what you are consuming. [They also have a Smart Phone App, so it's literally like having a dietician and educator with you in the store or out to eat (yes, they grade restaurants too)!!]
Now that we know we have a great resource on hand, let's talk a little bit more about just being educated on food labels and ingredients...so that you can have a stronger understanding before you even have to reach for your handy Fooducate App.

1) Health/Food Claims- geez these can be confusing. "All Natural," "Lowers Cholesterol," "Low Fat," "Sugar Free," etc. The front of the package can definitely draw you in when browsing the isles, but this is certainly not what you should judge the quality of the food from. There are no specific regulations as to what "natural" means on a food label, and "fat free" doesn't necessarily mean that is the best choice, it's more so a marketing tactic. The front of the box is the first step, the second step is looking to the food label and ingredient list.

2) Food Labels-Lets take a look...

3) Ingredients-These are a MUST Read. It is so important to know exactly what you are putting into your body. Otherwise, you are leaving your health in the hands of someone else. Let's go a through a few ingredients to take note of and be aware of:

  • Artificial Ingredients/Preservatives- Oh where do I begin.... well first, ARTIFICIAL. It's not from nature because it was synthetically created to....
    • 1) make food more appealing to the eye {you know, those bright red Skittles..} 
    • 2) give us a "fake" sweet taste, without the calories of normal sugar {while increasing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes...} 
    • 3)Flavor...{why eat a cherry, when you can have a chemical cherry taste?!}
    • 4)Preservatives...these help a food item stay on the shelf for an extended period of time. If it's fresh, it probably shouldn't be able to last for 6 months-1 year on the shelf. just saying...
    • Artificial Ingredients to Look Out For: Acesulfame, Aspartame, Artificial Colors (Red, Yellow, Blue Dyes), Artificial Flavors, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Brominated Vegetable Oil, etc.

  • Sugar- As a society, we consume large amounts of sugar daily. 22 teaspoons=350 calories {side note: it takes 500 less calories/day to lose 1 pound/week} We think we are doing great by choosing "low-fat" options, but then they load it with sugar to compensate for the loss of fat....SO in turn, the excess sugar floating around in our blood streams is then stored as fat. FAIL. It's confusing.
    • Naturally occurring sugar in REAL Food, is okay-Fruit/Dairy
    • Other Sugars I Consume (IN MODERATION): Organic/Local Honey, Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, Stevia (no added ingredients), Organic Pure Maple Syrup, Coconut Nectar
    • ADDED Sugar, this is wear it becomes dangerous. Read your ingredient list to find added or hidden sugars...(Beverages, Cereals, Cookies, etc.)
      • Brown Sugar, Corn Sweetener, High-Fuctose Corn Syrup, Evaporated Cane Juice, Raw Sugar, Sucrose...
    • Here is a great article from Harvards School of Public Health
    • We could reduce the risk of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Heart Disease, and Cancer if we started watching our intake of ADDED SUGARS.
  • Other added ingredients to be aware of...
    • Sodium- According to HSPH, "The government recommends limiting daily sodium intake to one 2,300milligrams (1 teaspoon). However, nearly 70% of US adults are at risk of developing health problems associated w/salt consumption, and the American Heart Association recommends...1,500 milligrams (2/3 of a teaspoon)."
    • Cholesterol and Fats-
      • Be aware of the amount of cholesterol you consume, especially if you are at risk for diabetes, and heart disease.
      • Saturated Fat-Typically found in animal sources. Watch your intake. Cut back on Red Meat, Cheese, Milk and Ice Cream. Leaner Sources: Chicken, Fish, Nuts, Beans.
      • Trans Fat- Man Made Fat. Added to increase shelf life. This fat can be very damaging to the body's cells. The food label can say "0" (zero) grams, but still consume 0.5 grams/serving. Scan the ingredients: look out for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. (Fried Foods, Biscuits, Baked Goods, etc. can all be sources)

Lastly, here is an EXCELLENT Guide to building your Plate:

Alright, if you are still with me in this post, you are probably all "educated-out" for the day! I DO hope you found this educational....below are the resources that I used to gather this information. Thanks for stopping by!! :)

Kroger's Simple Truth Brand-Free of 101 Artificial Ingredients and Preservatives

*Disclaimer: Although I am a ACSM-Health Fitness Specialist, I am not a medical professional or registered dietitian. The information that I share on my blog is based on my own experience, personal knowledge and is what works for me. You should consult a physician before starting any exercise program or diet plan. If you choose to do any of the workouts or health tips featured on this website, you do so at your own risk.

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